Gary Johnson ................................
Hello from the Classic TT! It’s practice week and I’m having a mint time ragging my 1982 XR69 around the Island’s finest ribbon of tarmac. It doesn’t seem two minutes ago that I was over here cutting shapes on my modern day superbikes, but it’s all change when you get to the Classic. Don’t get me wrong, these bikes are still proper fast – Bruce Anstey’s tasty YZR-500 is capable of over 190mph and my bike’s been through the speed trap at 178mph – but you just have to ride them a bit different. My bike weighs in at around 210kg. She’s a big girl! But she knows how to work it, which is why we managed to go fastest on the first night of practice.
I’ve not been out the top four all of practice week, which is encouraging. A lot of the reason for our strong opening performance is because we put the graft in during the build-up to the event. I managed to get out on my Team York Suzuki Centre bike a good few times in the weeks ahead of the Classic, including doing some racing with No Limits at Cadwell Park. I think people were a bit surprised when I started smashing 1m 34s in on the old girl, but that’s the potential it’s got. It’s still not handling perfectly, but we managed to dial it in pretty reasonably before we got here.
What we couldn’t have planned for was the ‘fast’ engine going pop on my first lap using it. I only went out to bed it in ahead of the race, but something went wrong big time at the 33rd milestone. It was a proper sketchy moment and I was lucky not to go down on my own oil. More to the point, thanks to the marshals being so awesome, no one else went down on it either. That was a bugger, but on a happier note I had a good chin-wag with the marshals and bagged a few free sarnies – can’t grumble about that.
Blow ups happen in racing, and although I’m a bit miffed that my number one engine’s now a distant memory, I know that things could be worse. I really feel for Michael Dunlop and the Classic Suzuki lads. They’ve not managed one whole lap of practice between all three of their riders. It’s a reflection of what we’re asking of these aged beauties. We’re clocking low to mid 120mph laps, which puts them on a par with a modern day 600 around here. That’s not too shabby, if you ask me.
Still, the biggest challenge in this race is going to be going the distance. By rights, Brucey boy should have this race wrapped up before he’s even started it on that stunning stroker, but, just like the rest of us, he’s got to make it over the line all of four times. And four laps around here is enough to test any bike to its limit. Especially those as old as these. But that’s the nature of the beast. It’s a worry, especially considering I’ve now had to switch back to my heavily mileaged practice motor. But you never know your luck. I’ll fill you in on how the race goes next month.
The road to victory? We sure hope so.
Davoand Gary havebeen lappingthe Classic TT up on their retroSuzukis.